The simple way to lose body fat: keep a food diary

Lose weight fast! Shed a stone in one month!

We see headlines like these all the time, and whilst it’s possible to lose a stone quickly, whether you keep it off long term is dependent on your metabolism, general lifestyle, and the tools at your disposal.

The good news is, sustainable fat loss and improved health and wellness doesn’t have to be complicated. There’s no quick fix diet; it’s a lifestyle. A marathon, not a sprint. But there’s one simple trick that can make a big difference to keep you on track: keeping a food diary.

Several studies have shown the benefits of keeping a food diary to aid a healthy weight loss journey and body transformation. It’s a simple but highly effective way to practice self awareness and make yourself accountable – even if only to yourself. Writing things down means you become more mindful of your eating habits and makes it easier to understand and adapt them to reach your goals.

Why you should keep a food diary

Think of your body as a machine. What you get out of it (energy levels, concentration, emotional health and wellbeing, sleep quality) reflects what you put in (food, drink, exercise – with or without a personal trainer).

Recording everything you eat and drink for seven consecutive days – and importantly, how it makes you feel – can really help to highlight patterns and habits that you may not have noticed.

Things like:

  • Are you eating enough (or any) fruit and vegetables?
  • Are you getting enough protein to fuel your muscles and aid recovery?
  • How much water are you drinking?
  • Is a sizeable chunk of your weekly calorie intake hiding in milky or sugary drinks and alcohol?
  • Are you always tired at certain times?
  • Is your sleep suffering and energy levels low or fluctuating?
  • Are you struggling to concentrate at work?

You can’t progress until you first know what it is you’re trying to change, and a food diary is a great tool to give you a birdseye view and take control.

How to keep a food diary

There are plenty of free or paid for apps to record food and exercise. One of the benefits of using an app is it’ll add up the calories and macronutrients for you, with some having barcode scanner functionality for easy recording on the go. Apps our personal trainers in London recommend to clients include MyFitnessPal.

Another way is to take photos of every meal and snack on your phone, and keep them in a photo album to look back through. This is helpful to quickly show at a glance the types of food groups and portion sizes you regularly consume. It’s very easy to see the trends in your diet (and what’s lacking!), if it’s laid out in front of you.

Or, you could simply write down your daily food and drink in a notepad or notes app on your phone.

We think the best way to keep a food diary would be to use a combination of all of the above – with the app to easily add up the calories, the photos for a visual representation, and the written diary to record feelings and energy levels (although some apps have space for this built into them too).  

Whatever methods you use to record what you eat, it’s essential you’re honest with yourself (and that means recording every mouthful of food, every sip of drink) for it to work. There are often hidden calories in many things you don’t think twice about – the daily lattes, the oil and condiments you add to your food, the quick treats going round the office – recording all of this honestly is key to spotting and changing habits.  

5 quick tips for sustainable weight loss:

There’s no need to rip up the rule book when trying to improve health and wellness. If you want to lose body fat, it all comes down to being in a small daily calorie deficit. That is, putting less calories into your body than it expends each day.

Diving into a drastic diet change may help to shed the pounds quickly but it’s unsustainable long term and you’ll set yourself up for self-sabotage. With some smart diet hacks and a healthy food plan you can eat the foods you normally do but look for lower calorie options or reduce portion size to make this cut.

  • Eat a large salad or big plate of vegetables every single day.

The more colourful the better, to get a wide range of nutrients. Eat a rainbow!

  1. Eat protein at every meal.
    This can be from meat sources such as chicken, fish or red meat, or plant-based, such as lentils, quinoa or peanut butter.

  • Increase your daily steps / activity by 20 percent.

Take the stairs instead of the lift, walk or cycle to work instead of driving, get up and walk around every hour in the office (or at home). Every little helps!

  • Prepare the foods you consume consistently in a less calorific way

Some smart swaps can make all the difference and help you slim down without sacrifice. Swap ketchup for tabasco with your Saturday morning eggs, or try homemade fish and chips to halve the calories of a fish shop trip.

  • Drink more water.

It’s great for your skin, improves focus and concentration, and has been proven to help promote healthy weight loss in numerous studies.

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